Fantasy Mailbox : Preseason Edition

Welcome to the preseason edition of the Fantasy Mailbox! As the season progresses, we will select a few emails to answer in our weekly mailbox column. To be considered for future columns, send your fantasy football questions to and be sure to include your first name, last initial, city & state.

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Q : Hi. I'm fairly new to fantasy football and have my draft this Saturday. Everybody tells me that it's silly to pick a kicker early. Can you help? Thanks!

Barb T. - Iowa City, IA

Kickers often get their points based upon their team's inability to get the ball into the end-zone...which is very difficult to predict. Some kickers rise to the top through the course of the season, but making a preseason projection is a rarely winning gamble. It's much better to solidify your back-up running backs, quarterback, and wide receivers (where prediction of final fantasy statistics is much more accurate)...and wait until the last pick or two to grab a kicker.

Neil Rackers set a field goal record in 2005 with the Arizona Cardinals...and did it while missing a game. The Cardinals weren't thought to be a contender going into last season and Rackers was nowhere on fantasy radars, but those who got him late in their fantasy drafts (although probably a lucky selection) were highly rewarded.


Q : With 4 starting running backs, who do I pair with LT on opening day?

LaDainian Tomlinson, Kevin Jones, DeShaun Foster, Jamal Lewis

Chris P. - Newburgh, IN

Most drafts saw Jones going ahead of Foster due to Foster's history of injuries (and emerging rookie DeAngelo Williams), but I like Foster when healthy. Carolina has a strong run-based offense and Foster should put up nice numbers as long as he's able to stay in the line-up. Foster gets a nice match-up at home the first week against Atlanta.

Be sure to watch Jones closely in the first week or two and see what Mike Martz is able to do with Detroit's offense. Jamal Lewis is starting in Baltimore (for now), but his carries will be soon lost to Mike Anderson if he begins to falter.


Q : Hey fantasy freak - I could use some advice here. I'm not completely sold on my WR corps - I have Larry Fitzgerald, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Javon Walker, Ernest Wilford, Troy Williamson, and Kevin Curtis. With Stallworth's recent trad to the Eagles, would it be a good move to drop one of the last 3 guys and pick up Devery Henderson?

Would Brandon Stokley be a better WR3 to pickup than Kevin Curtis? Or perhaps a Raider receiver not named Moss or Porter (they were both drafted)?

Larry J. - Roscoe, IL

Actually, I like your receivers. If it's the weakest position on your team, then you must be a favorite to win your league.

I have Fitz ranked 4th and Housh/Walker in or near the top 20. Did you see T.J. on MNF this week? Palmer is going to throw 35 TDs this year and Houshmandzadeh will definitely get his share as teams lean on Chad Johnson (in fact, some believe Housh may get more).

I like your current bench WRs over the pick-up otpions that you listed. But if you are still unsatisfied, a trade may be in order. Although I don't know the rest of your team, it sometimes is good to make a 2 for 1 offer in these situations. I'd be careful about moving Housh or Walker unless it's for someone in the top ten, but it's often possible to package two solid guys for someone in the top tier. Take a look at your line-up and see if you have depth at QB (for example) and package a solid QB with one of your WRs for an upgrade at the position.

Good luck to you!


Q : Hi Freak! I've been wondering how the Eagles were going to have any kind of a passing game with their lack of quality WRs. And WHAM - they get Donte Stallworth! My draft is tomorrow (Fri) and I'm thinking of taking him. Do you think he'll do anything? Thanks in advance!

Byron F. - Boston, MA

Absoulutly. Stallworth will do something and likely be McNabb's top target. Stallworth continues to steadily improve and is in his contract year. Expect last year's totals of nearly 1000 yards and 7 TDs to increase by 25% as Stallworth connects with pass friendly McNabb and finds a better home in Philadelphia. We have moved Stallworth up our fantasy rankings (found on tab at top of any NFL page) and will likely move him up further as the season progresses.


Q : Ok, I just finished my draft in a 12 man league, and my RBs are horrible (Jamal Lewis, Willie Parker, and Corey Dillon). First, do you think Jamal Lewis will do anything this year?? Second, is there any backup players who you believe I can pick up - and may be playing before long? Each one of my RBs' backups got picked right before I picked them, so any of those are out...

Shawn S. - Ohio

Hi Shawn. I agree with your weak running back analysis...but it doesn't have to be the end of the world.

Parker is probably your most stable of the lot, so I'd leave him alone. I recommend you try to trade for Lawrence Maroney or for Mike Anderson (backups for Dillon and Lewis). Try Maroney first since I like New England's team much better. It may mean a trade involving Lewis or packaging other players from your roster to get him (and his owner can't have Maroney valued that high since you have Dillon), but you definitely need to get Dillon's backup.

If a trade for Maroney doesn't work, then do something similar for Mike Anderson...but I wouldn't part with Dillon to do it. Dillon and Lewis may be okay this year, but I don't like either of their chances to last the full season and play for your team when it counts (the fantasy playoffs).


Q : I have my draft this weekend and want some advice on which running backs I should stay away from. I'll like your rankings and am planning on using them as a guide, but can you give me a few guys that are more risky?

Keith G. - Lincoln, NE

Hi Keith. Make sure you check the rankings immediately prior to your draft (as we update them daily).

Domanick Davis has fallen way off with lingering injuries in Houston and should be avoided. Greg Jones is out for the season. Clinton Portis' pre-season shoulder will not sideline him, but did prompt the Redskins to acquire T.J. Duckett from Atlanta...Duckett may take 4-6 goal-line TDs from Portis (knocking Portis from 5th to 9th in our fantasy rankings). Tiki Barber will again put up huge yardage, but his TDs will likely be limited to 10 or under this season (goal-line carries to Brandon Jacobs).

Running-back-by-committee (RBBC) and lack of a clear long-term starter (due to injury potential, competition at the position, and/or rookie studs pushing veterans) is an issue that exists on several NFL teams including: Indianapolis, Denver, New England, Baltimore, Carolina, New Orleans, Tennessee, Chicago, Jacksonville, Dallas, and Houston.

In some cases, it may be a good draft strategy to grab both backs (handcuff) on teams that may ultimately have a replacement at starting RB. This can often be done in the middle rounds and well after the top backs have been taken. In fact, a handcuff combination on a solid running team can be better than a number one on another team.

Think Foster/Williams - Carolina, Jones/Benson - Chicago, Dillon/Maroney - New England, Bell/Bell - Denver, McAllister/Bush - New Orleans, and Lewis/Anderson - Baltimore.

Hope that helps...Good luck in your draft this weekend!

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